Getting ready to take that well-deserved vacation? Whether you're traveling far away or staying close to home, you'll want to keep your precious downtime as stress-free as possible. Taking good care of your credit card-and using it wisely during this time-will help make that possible.
Take advantage of credit card benefits.
Check your credit card benefits if you’re looking for discounts on rental cars, hotels or tourist attractions. You can usually find out what your cards have to offer by checking their websites or calling their customer service departments. Some credit cards even offer additional insurance coverage for rental cars, over and above any coverage your regular insurance company provides.
Remember, you may not have to go out of town to take advantage of these discounts. You may be able to use your credit get a break on admission prices at amusement parks, museums or other attractions near home.
Let your credit card company know if you’ll be traveling out of town.
Credit card issuers are always on the lookout for fraudulent activity, and large charges or purchases made far away from your usual locations are a red flag. Call customer service to let them know when and where you’ll be gone and your out-of-town charges are more likely to go through without being questioned.
You may have three or four major credit cards and several cards from retailers, but you don’t need to take them all with you. Select two cards—a primary and a backup—and leave the rest in a secure location at home. (If you’ve used a card to book a hotel or rental car at a discount, be sure you take that card along with you.)
Resist the temptation to overspend with credit.
Are you the kind of person who tends to overspend on your credit cards at holiday time and then pays for that indulgence over the next few months of the year? It’s easy to fall into the same free-spending pattern while you’re on vacation.
We all tend to splurge a little when we’re out of our everyday routines; we make expensive impulse purchases when browsing interesting new shops and eat out more frequently. (And that can get especially costly if you’re staying in a resort area with few dining options.)
Your best defense is to plan ahead. Set a budget for your vacation and do your best to stick to it. If using a credit card makes it too easy to ignore your self-imposed spending limits, put away the card and allow yourself a certain amount of cash for each day of vacation, only using your credit card if you have an emergency.
Save receipts and check charges.
When you’re paying by credit card, it’s easy to lose track of your spending—and it’s hard to remember, a month after your trip is over, what you bought in each store. So tuck your receipts in your wallet and spent five minutes at the end of each day (or even the next morning) noting what you bought. Then put those receipts in an envelope in a safe place.
When your credit card bill comes in at the end of the month, check your receipts against the charges. If you can’t figure out what the charge was from, don’t be afraid to question it, even if it is small. Sometimes credit card thieves will test a card number with a small purchase to see if it works.
It’s an even better idea to get in the habit of checking your credit card account activity once a week. If someone does clone your credit card information, the sooner you can catch their activity and report it the better.
A stolen credit card or big bills piling up in the months after vacation can ruin your memories of your time away. Taking basic precautions to avoid overspending and credit card theft will help ensure that those memories are happy.